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Question from someone very green - Upgrading hardware advantages?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by iwasonlyhuman, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. iwasonlyhuman

    iwasonlyhuman TDPRI Member

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    Hello, this is my second post on this forum so you can imagine how green I am. I have only been into electric guitar for approximately 2 years and could use some advice. Just a quick explanation: I purchased the 1999 American Strat used during my honeymoon in 2011. It had obviously been slightly modified before (the knobs were replaced with Tele knobs but I am unsure of any other work done). Since then, I have already had a tech upgrade the pickups to Texas Specials and Fender-brand locking tuners. The guitar plays well enough and I don't use my tremelo currently but I am considering starting.

    I really want this guitar to be my true #1 Strat, and thus I want to put everything necessary to make it the best I can. I have noticed that Callaham bridges get a lot of praise and didn't know if that is a worth upgrade. I also don't know if there are internal changes I should make (wiring, etc.) to get this guitar to top quality. What upgrades are deemed worthy and what advantages do they bring?

    Thanks in advance for any and all help.
     
  2. YoGeorge

    YoGeorge Tele-Afflicted

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    The primary advantage in any guitar is the player. I have a $133 Squier tele that I "upgraded" with a ceramic MIM tele pickup from my drawer, and I have taken it to jams and gotten compliments on my tone from people playing $3000 guitars.

    Seriously, this kind of minutiae like bridges, wiring, etc. can make 1% differences, but 98% of all of it is your playing skill. There are many forums including this one where people spend years chasing their tails and spending thousands of dollars instead of working on their musical skills. I'm a bicyclist and see the same thing there--guys who spend $4000 on a bicycle and buying $1000 wheels as an upgrade, only to get blown away by some kid riding a $300 bike because the kid has spent time training and has some muscles.

    Unless there is a problem with your wiring, I'd focus on working on your playing skills and exploiting the flexibility of your strat--which is considerable. An American Strat is an excellent guitar and there are guys playing gigs 5 days a week on Mexican strats, or old Ibanez guitars that we would laugh at--who could play circles around us.

    Good luck,
    George
     
  3. fender4life

    fender4life Friend of Leo's

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    Callaham.....i use vintage style strats and have callaham trems on them with fantastic results. American strats can benefit too tho. If it's a older one with the block style saddles (which it IS if it's a '99) i would replace those with callaham bent steel saddles, but more importantly replace the block. I have had amazing results on my vintage style strats, but a friend who like you has a american standard replaced his block and was equally floored at the improvement.

    that said, you say you've been playing 2 years? When i was playing that long i couldn't hear the difference between anything and ANYTHING ! As the years went by my hearing grew more and more sensitive till some 40 years later i can hear the change when a piece of dust lands on my strat. :) Ok, kidding, but the point is what is huge to me, you may not even hear having only played a couple years. But if you CAN, or WHEN you can, callaham is great. Tho i must say on brighter strats they can be overkill and cause them to sound tinny. On strats that are dark or maybe up to average as far as brightness, there a callaham block and saddles can make a great difference in deepness, clarity, sustain and harmonic richness.

    Thats the main thing thats going to improve that guitar's resonance. If with that you want more than it's probably time for a new strat.
     
  4. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

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    Sounds to me like it's set up pretty good as it is. Play it.:D
     
  5. voodoostation

    voodoostation Friend of Leo's

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    I'm with Fezz on this one. Get some more hours under your belt first and figure out if your guitar has any weak points that can be addressed. There are plenty of folk on this site who have never had a need to modify their guitar, and many who do. Wear that thing out!
     
  6. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

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    Purchased during your honeymoon, plays well enough. Yeah, I'd play it some more before messing with it. Sometimes when you start messing with it it can create some new thing you won't like! Besides, it already sounds like a special guitar.

    You could get another cheap strat to mess around with modifying and such if you are really interested?
     
  7. iwasonlyhuman

    iwasonlyhuman TDPRI Member

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    It is a special guitar, I will admit that. I will definitely get some more time before changing much more. I am considering a Tele as my backup so maybe that one will become my Frankenstein. Thanks for all the input!
     
  8. Drubbing

    Drubbing Friend of Leo's

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    Leaner to play it as best you can.

    It's the best upgrade money can't buy. All the hardware tweaks you're looking at/have done, are nothing more than window dressing. It's doubtful your ears or ability will tell the difference.

    Until you can play well enough to develop definite preferences, save your money.

    Everything people say here is true. If you want a golf analogy, Tiger Woods would whip any weekend hacker's butt with half a set of Walmart clubs.
     
  9. CajunPicker316

    CajunPicker316 Tele-Holic

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    Be careful with that, the tele will most likely end up being your #1, then you'll want to try something different, and you'll have more teles than you know what to do with.

    Good luck to ya!
     
  10. mechtech

    mechtech TDPRI Member

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    Get a big heavy bridge block - for sure. Guitar Fetish has very good and cheap ones.
     
  11. Stratburst

    Stratburst Friend of Leo's

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    If there's nothing wrong with it, don't try to fix it. It sounds like the guitar's already great as it is.
     
  12. Jamie Black

    Jamie Black Friend of Leo's

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    It sounds like a really solid strat setup and should be fine. You have locking tuners so as long as you're not going full EVH on the trem you'll be fine. Enjoy that guitar, you've got a nice one.
     
  13. Nub

    Nub Friend of Leo's

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    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    I love upgraded parts, and use them a lot, but honestly, they aren't a necessity... usually more for stroking your ego than your tone. ;) And they don't always work better than the stock stuff... there are folks that don't like how the Callaham bridges or heavier blocks change their tone, or how new wiring kits don't bleed off the treble (count me in on this one). It sounds like you've got a great Strat there, with nothing wrong with it... just make sure it's setup well & play the heck out of it!

    PS. There is one mod I'd make to it, but it's just a personal preference, and doesn't cost anything to do... I like the JV/EJ wiring setup, with tone pots wired to the neck & bridge pickups, and the middle pup straight through. As always though, YMMV.
     
  14. iwasonlyhuman

    iwasonlyhuman TDPRI Member

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    I did do one upgrade today... A new case! I had a generic case but picked up one of the Tweed Fender Pro Series cases today. It is a little flimsy feeling but I love the retro aspect. I am also going to throw in some pics just to show off my "honey." The sticker on the back was of an old style pin-up, but my belt buckle rash has removed most of it. Thanks again for all the information!

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  15. Daywalker

    Daywalker TDPRI Member

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    That is a great lookin' strat! At one time, my strat had the pearloid pickguard and tele knobs.

    The mods I did to my #1 strat where all done for reliability and versatility. I like to tinker so I doubt she's in her final form. My words below are in no way an endorsement or a pitch of anybody's product. Just what I did.

    Tone is a subjective, never ending quest for many folks. I've found that the type of pickups, pedals, and amp settings do the most of the work there. :eek:

    I've gone through a handful of strats, some vintagy, some modern, and took what I felt were the best gigging attributes of each and build a hot rod Fender Partscaster.

    Here's what I've done.

    • Satin Poly Neck: Fast, I got this one from an American Deluxe V Neck.
    • Locking Tuners: Fast string changes, helps keep her in tune
    • Pickups: I too have Texas Specials. Nice higher output single coil pickup. Positions 2 and 4 are my fav w/ no hum.
    • Pots and wiring: I went with the ToneShapers Serenity Kit. This is a plug and play setup. Middle pot is master tone and the third is used to roll on the bridge pickup all the time (good for tele tones), or to run pickups in series (good humbucker sounds). I've had both. Changing pots is quick. No soldering.
    • Bridge: I have the BladeRunner Tremolo. This thing is great for modern floating trem playability. I didn't like the string spacing and tuning instability from the original 6 point MIM Trem. I had installed a Callaham with solid block. It looked and played great, but went back to the SuperVee BladeRunner because of tuning.
    I've learned that guitars are like people. No two are the same. I had an AVRI 57 with vintage tuners, bridge, and block that NEVER went out of tune and a CS Custom Deluxe with all modern hardware that was never in tune.

    Good luck with your mods!
     
  16. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Aftermarket parts are always advertised as improvements, of course. I put a Callaham bridge on my Tele, changed the sound a lot. Hated it, changed back to the stocker. I was about like you (maybe), wanted to make the guitar better, heard all the hype.

    Now if and when I mod a guitar, I have a specific goal I'm trying to acheive. If I can't spell out my objective, I'm not doing it.

    The one thing I would recommend to anybody as far as guitar work goes is a first class pro set-up. Frets level, nut slots right, neck relief right, bridge adjusted, it should play as well as the most expensive custom stuff out there. That's worth the money, make it play up to its potential.
     
  17. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    +1000.

    And by the way, that Strat looks SWEET!
     
  18. iwasonlyhuman

    iwasonlyhuman TDPRI Member

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    Thanks! It really caught my attention when we stumbled on it.
     
  19. MoltenZoltan

    MoltenZoltan TDPRI Member

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    Why!?

    It'll make your guitar heavier and the only tone difference will be whatever you think will happen to the sound (i.e. suggestion).
     
  20. E5RSY

    E5RSY Doctor of Teleocity

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    Looks great, except your sticker isn't on right. Gotta have it "upside down" so it looks right when you show the crowd. :D

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